May-July Haul

My book-buying ban has somewhat derailed, I’m afraid, but at the end of last month it was still going strong, and so I only have seven books to show you in this post, several of which were gifts, and all but one of which I have already read (incredibly. I’ve never known myself to read things so promptly after buying/receiving them!). In any case, here they are:

1) Geekerella by Ashley Poston. A super-cute love story between die-hard fans of Starfield, a fictional Star Trek-esque TV show, which jumped straight to the top of my to-buy list almost as soon as I discovered that it existed. 💕 I’ve already read this book, and you can find my review of it here.

2) We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. An essay about why feminism is (or should be) important to everyone. This book was a gift from my friend Grace, who just so happened to have a spare copy lying around, and kindly offered it to me when I off-handedly mentioned that I’d been meaning to read it for a while… 😁 I didn’t write a full review for this one, but you can find my thoughts on it in my June wrap-up.

3) Bee & Puppycat, Volume 1 by Natasha Allegri & Garrett Jackson. A cute comic book about a girl and her alien/cat/puppy flatmate, doing bizarre temp jobs. I bought this on a whim when it appeared at the second-hand bookshop where I work, entirely due to the cuteness of the art and Natasha Allegri’s name on the cover… And although I liked the book, it’s not a series that I think I’ll be continuing with. ☹️ Not pictured because I re-donated it a few days ago; my review is here.

4) The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts. A beautiful and amazing book of art from the Legend of Zelda series, which was a birthday present from my best friend Chloë (who also gave me Hyrule Historia – which Art & Artifacts accompanies – for Christmas last year!). As it’s an art book, it’s not really the kind of thing to be read cover-to-cover, but I have spent a significant amount of time staring at it, and can confirm that it is a thing of wonder. 😍

5) Now I Rise by Kiersten White. The sequel to And I Darken, which is about a young Vlad the Impaler, had he been born a woman. This is the only book on this list that I haven’t finished reading yet (I’m currently about a quarter of the way through it, but I keep getting distracted by life – and readathons), but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read so far, & I hope to get round to continuing it soon. I really can’t recommend this series enough. 😊

6) Once & for All by Sarah Dessen. The latest of Dessen’s teen romances, which I bought – along with Now I Rise, as they were both on buy-one-get-one-half-price at Waterstones – right before going on holiday to Skye. I was actually intending to finish this book before I left, but didn’t quite make it, and so it came with me on my trip, and was very much enjoyed. 😋 Not my favourite of Dessen’s books, but an amazing read nonetheless… you can find my review here.

7) Calum’s Road by Roger Hutchinson. The last book I acquired in July was a birthday present from my sister Helen, the biography of a man called Calum MacLeod, who build a two-mile road between Brochel Castle and South Arnish in Raasay, with only a wheelbarrow, shovel, pickaxe, and his own two hands. Biographies are not usually my thing, but this was an incredible story – which I’ve reviewed here. (Also not in the picture, because I lent it back to Heli to read almost as soon as I’d finished it myself, but this is definitely a book I’ll be keeping. 👍)

Review: Geekerella by Ashley Poston (Spoiler-Free)

A Cinderella story with a fandom twist! Elle is a huge fan of the old cult sci-fi show Starfield, as was her father before he died. Her stepmother? Not so much, and her awful step-sisters don’t get it either – that is, until teen heartthrob Darien Freeman is cast as the lead actor in the new Starfield reboot! Meanwhile, Darien’s life is no cakewalk either. Federation Prince Carmindor is his dream role, but his manager keeps pushing him into things he’s not ready for, the Starfield fans don’t think he’s cut out for the job, and somebody on-set has been taking pictures of him and posting them online without his permission. His only real solace is a stranger on the other end of a wrong number, but could – as people keep telling him – his new friendship be getting in the way of his career?

This was such a cute book! Elle and Darien’s romance was really sweet, and felt very believable, despite the fact that they didn’t meet – or even know each other’s identities – for almost the entire book. And the individual characters (or most of them, at least) all seemed really well-developed, as well; Elle and Darien were both relatable and sympathetic, as were many of the side characters, although most of them didn’t play particularly major parts in the story. Of the very minor characters, my favourite was definitely Sage’s mum, who was a really fun character.

Geekerella is also really interesting as a re-telling, not just because of the modern-day, geek-culture setting, but also because Poston has provided really fresh take on many of Cinderella‘s traditional roles. Where the fairy godmother character is often a mother- or mentor-figure, in this book she’s one of Elle’s peers; and rather than being a single homogenised unit, you can tell that a lot of effort has gone into making sure that Elle’s two step-sisters, Chloe and Calliope, are distinct from one another. Even the wicked stepmother isn’t the same cut-and-dry villain that we usually see in Cinderella retellings – though she’s still pretty detestable. And although the overt magic of Cinderella has been entirely removed from the setting, I was really impressed by how Poston still managed to create a story that feels very magical.

And speaking of Elle’s stepmother (Catherine), she fascinated me. She initially does come off as this one-dimensional villain, who’s obsessed with her own self-image, and determined to make Elle’s life as miserable as possible for no reason (beyond spite, presumably born from jealousy over the connection between Elle and her father), but the more I read about her, the more pitiful she seemed. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still an awful person, but it’s also incredibly sad how her own warped world-view seems to be making her almost as miserable as she’s making everyone else – and it’s also a little unsettling, because I’ve known people like her, who are completely incapable of realising that not everyone has to like, or value the same things; that loving a show like Starfield (even loving it to the extent that you’d write a blog about it, or dress up as the characters) doesn’t automatically equate to an unhealthy obsession… In a strange way, she does seem to want what’s best for Elle; she just doesn’t  know what that is, and is dangerous because she’s so convinced that she does.

A couple of things that I didn’t like quite so much: Chloe was rather one-dimensional, which struck me as strange considering the amount of effort that Poston put into all the other characters. She’s an odd mash-up of unenlightened stereotypes, including the evil not-a-real-fan, the spoiled, vain princess, and the girl-who-pretends-to-like-something-in-order-to-impress-guys-then-makes-fun-of-them-behind-their-backs… The second thing was that Starfield was a clear in-story stand-in for Star Trek, which would have been fine if Poston hadn’t kept talking about the actual Star Trek, too. It just seems strange that two such similar shows would both have flourished (to the level where creating specific conventions for each of them was a worthwhile business proposition) despite being aired at around the same time and therefore being in direct competition. I feel like in a real-world situation, one of them was bound to have died in obscurity… It’s not a huge problem, but it did take me out of the story a couple of times.

Overall, Geekerella is a charming book, half-love story, and half-love letter – to Star Trek, to conventions, to cosplay… The wrong-number premise makes me want to (blind-)recommend this to people who liked Sophie Kinsella’s I’ve Got Your Number, but I feel that it’s closer in spirit to books like Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell or Backward Compatible by Sarah Daltry & Pete Clark, both of which are sweet romance novels that really embrace fan-culture.

May Wrap-Up

Eight books in May! I was feeling the beginnings of a reading slump towards the end of the month (after a couple of disappointing reads), but I’m glad I managed to shake it off so quickly! 😄 And apart from those few disappointments, the majority of the month has been filled with some really excellent books! Here they all are:

Darken the Stars by Amy A. Bartol. The final (I hope) book in the Kricket series, which follows a teenage girl who’s taken to another world and told that it’s actually her homeland. The last couple of books were fun, if somewhat grating, but this last book was seriously problematic. I wrote a review of the full series near the beginning of the month, but it’s mostly just a rant about Darken the Stars. 😡The Firework-Maker’s Daughter by Philip Pullman. A sweet story about a girl who wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a firework-maker, and so sets out on a journey to prove herself. This was a really cute book; a bit shorter than I would have preferred, but I loved the characters (particularly Hamlet the talking elephant) and the secret behind the Royal Sulphur…I Was a Rat! by Philip Pullman. The story of a rat who is turned into a boy, and the elderly couple who take him in. I first read this book many, many years ago, so I was rather surprised by how vividly I was able to remember it… and by it being just as wonderful a read as it was the first time around. I’ve written a proper review of this book, which you can find here.Clockwork by Philip Pullman. Two dark, haunting tales told parallel to one another, about two men who both make deals with the sinister Dr. Kalmenius, who has a peculiar talent for clockwork. An excellent story, and genuinely chilling, even for someone who’s significantly older than the target audience… Of the two simultaneous story threads, I preferred the one about the clockwork prince, but the way they both came together in the end was wonderful. ☺️The Scarecrow & His Servant by Philip Pullman. A lighthearted tale about a scarecrow who is struck by lightning and brought to life, and the young (rather more grounded) boy he decides to hire as his servant. It was a fun read, but I probably would have enjoyed it more if I’d read it when I was (a lot) younger. At 27, there are still things about it that I can appreciate, but as a whole it was just a bit too silly… My review can be found here.Four Tales by Philip Pullman. This was a compilation of the four tales I’ve just mentioned, and as a collection it was very impressive (and beautiful, which a book really ought to be if possible); the stories are great, and fit together very well thematically… My favourite was probably Clockwork  something that surprised me, as I was definitely expecting it to be I Was a Rat! (if only for nostalgia’s sake) – but they’re all good fun, and excellently written.The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten. A story about a boy with OCD, who meets a girl at his support group and falls madly in love with her, triggering a rapid downward spiral in his recovery… I ended up being pretty disappointed with this book, unfortunately, but since it was my May Library Scavenger Hunt pick, I’ve written a full review of it already; you can find it here. 😑Geekerella by Ashley Poston. An adorable modern re-interpretation of Cinderella, where Cinderella (i.e. Elle) is a huge fan of the sci-fi series Starfield, as well as the daughter of the founder of ExcelsiCon, a massive Starfield convention, and Prince Charming (i.e. Darien) is a young heartthrob actor and secret nerd, who’s just been cast for the lead role in the new Starfield reboot. It’s not exactly love at first sight, but they get there in the end. I absolutely loved this book! It’s super-cute, with great characters (even the minor ones), and a few surprising twists to the traditional Cinderella-retelling mould… I will hopefully be posting a full review of this in the next couple of weeks. 😄What’s a Soulmate? by Lindsey Ouimet. A surprisingly complex look at the soulmate-identifying-marks trope, in which a teenage girl called Libby meets her soulmate at the juvenile detention centre where her father works, only to find that he’s been brought there for committing a horrific assault. I’ve been seeing this trope in various different forms (including the one Ouimet uses) all over the place lately, and I’ll confess that I’m something of a sucker for it, but I really feel that Ouimet was able to do something unexpected with it. I won’t say too much else here, because this is another book that I’d like to write a more detailed review of, but the characters were all great, and the plot and the romance were both exciting and realistically portrayed… 👍